Tea room provides ministry

Taste and See Tea is a home-away-from-home get- away. The tea room, located at 521 E. Holland, greets guests with its warm, contemporary-yet-vintage feel. Soft, classical music plays in the background as you choose your own china ware to drink your hot tea from. Sheer linens on the enormous windows separate you from the hustle-and-bustle of the busy street outside, providing a relaxing shelter from everyday life. Not only does Taste and See Tea provide an escape, but it also provides a ministry to homeless women who currently live in transition centers. Specifically working with Anna Ogden Hall, which is associated with the Union Gospel Mission, the tea room helps these women transition into a working environment.

“I volunteered down at the [Union Gospel] Mission and saw a need to give these ladies a chance,” owner Thada Ziegler said.

Ziegler started Taste and See Tea in 2006 by inviting friends into her home to have tea, and donated the money she raised to Anna Ogden Hall. In 2008, Ziegler opened a facility on the South Hill after she received non-profit status for Taste and See Tea. However, be- cause of the small facility and Ziegler’s desire to expand, Taste and See Tea recently moved to the north side of Spokane.

Taste and See Tea offers a business practicum to the women they work with, providing these women with internships. The internships consist of 240 hours of one-on-one training with Ziegler on business etiquette — conflict resolution, building up self-esteem, taking direction and working as a team.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to work with these women. This is an amazingly fulfilling job,” employee Barb Cressey said. “They expose us to many of the trials and hardships they have experienced in their lives and as we train them, we often times are the ones receiving the blessings.”

Interns start out washing dishes, then start serving food and waiting on tables, but continue at their own comfort level.

“They need to branch out because being in the real world is different,” Ziegler said. “We’re helping them ease in for what lies ahead. They have lots of hurts and a past they have to work through.”

Overall, Taste and See Tea has had six interns, who are paid by tips and gratuities.

“We have the most gracious and lovely customers,” Cressey said. “They’re here to support the ministry. We know they’re here for a reason, not just to be self- indulgent.”

When Ziegler was deciding what kind of business to open, she wanted to create a relaxing environment.

“I don’t have Wi-Fi in here,” Ziegler said.“I want people to come in and have a place to talk to each other.”

Ziegler also saw an opportunity to bring something new to the Spokane area.

“Over the years I collected a bunch of tea things — linens, cups,” Ziegler said. “I got really interested in tea, and since there isn’t much around here for tea, I wanted to bring a new market.”

Sophomore Rebecca Southwick’s first experience at Taste and See Tea was a birthday party.

“There were five of us total and we ordered more than 17 pots of tea,” Southwick said. “Each kind of tea is unique, but delicious, which made us want to keep ordering more. I think we tried more than half the teas on the menu.”

Taste and See Tea serves 27 different kinds of tea, ranging from black tea to fruit blends. It also provides fresh goods made in-house, such as scones, cookies and sandwiches.

Not only serving delicious treats, Taste and See Tea helps homeless women overcome their hardships in order to prepare for a work environment.

“We want our customers to know they’re partnering with us to keep us open,” Ziegler said.

Story by Chrissy Roach Photo Editor

Contact Chrissy Roach at croach14@my.whitworth.edu.

Photographer: Hope Barnes